Last week, our kids were on “spring break,” and they didn’t need to check in to virtual school. So we set aside one day for a reading marathon. We wanted to do something that felt different — like a vacation — even though during this official school break our daily life was pretty much unchanged,

In the past we’ve tried to hold Family Reading Marathons somewhere out of town, because we’ve found there are too many interruptions and distractions at home. But not during quarantine! There are no surprise visitors or last minute plans these days.

This was our Family Reading Marathon schedule:

10:00 to 11:00 — Personal Reading.
Ben Blair read The Stranger (in French) and The Diamond Age.
I read La Belle Sauvage, Book One.
Oscar read The Da Vinci Code.
Betty read Matilda (in French) and Emma.
Flora June read The Series of Unfortunate Events, Book One.

11:00 to 12:00 — Harry Potter.
We’re been reading aloud through the whole series as a family, and we’re currently on Prisoner of Azkaban.

This is how we do it: We project the Kindle version onto the TV screen so everyone can see it (Betty prefers the illustrated copy, so she uses that.) Then we split up the reading assignments. One person reads the narrator, one person reads Harry, one person reads Ron & Hermione, one person reads all adults, and one person reads all kids (except Harry, Ron, & Hermione).

Sometimes we have to make adjustments — like if it’s a chapter that has two adults with lots of dialogue, but no kids beyond the main three. Obviously, we want everyone to get a chance to read.

We’ve found that doing it this way keeps everyone engaged because they have to follow along so they don’t miss their parts. And the kids love trying different accents for different characters.

12:00 to 2:00 — More Personal Reading.
We all stayed with the same books from before, but of course, anyone is welcome to switch things up if they are in the mood for another title.

2:00 to 3:00 — Group Reading — One in French and One in English.
We read Memoire d’un Ane and We Should All Be Feminists. Like with Harry Potter, these were read aloud, with everyone taking turns.

3:00 to 5:00 — Last Session of Personal Reading.
The Reading Marathon ended at 5:00, but really, everyone was welcome to keep reading if they preferred.

Before the marathon began, we prepped snacks to keep on the coffee table. We didn’t break for lunch, and instead, snacked our way through the day. We made sure to get snack requests from the kids.

Ben and I also did as much work-at-home-work as we could ahead of time, so that we could take that time off. Though we did end up working from 7:00 to Midnight (which is fairly typical for us with the time change).

If you can make something like this work for your family, I highly recommend it. The day was SO SATISFYING. Everyone had a relaxed and happy time, we were all in the same room hanging out. Sometimes we would interrupt the reading to discuss something from one of our books, or share a memory. It was stress-free and a lovely distraction from our usual schedules. It ended up feeling like an ideal low-cost, easy prep, sheltering-at-home activity.

Have you ever tried something like this? Any insights or adaptations that worked for your family? Would your kids be into this idea? Or your spouse/partner? And what are you reading during quarantine? I’d love to hear.